What is a septic system?
A septic system is a small on-site sewage treatment and disposal system buried in the ground in which waste matter is decomposed through bacterial action.
How do septic systems work?
Household waste flows out of the house via a connecting pipe to the primary chamber of the tank. Organic solid material floats to the surface and forms a layer of what is commonly called "scum." Bacteria in the septic tank biologically convert this material to liquid (effluent).
Inorganic or inert solid materials and the by-products of bacterial digestion sink to the bottom of the tank and form a layer commonly known as "sludge." As the primary chamber of the septic tank fills up, this digested material or effluent flows through a connecting pipe to a secondary chamber. This is where the final settling and digestion process in the tank take place.
From the secondary chamber, the effluent passes through an outlet pipe into the leach field for the final purification process. Only clear water (effluent) should exist between the scum and sludge layers. It is this clear water (effluent) that should overflow into the soil absorption area.
How do I take care of my Septic System?
The sludge that accumulates in the bottom of the tank must be pumped out periodically. How frequently you do that depends on the size of the tank, the purpose you use it for, and the condition of the system.
No additive can be used in the tank to deal with the sludge. The sludge has to be pumped. If not pumped, the sludge will eventually overflow into the soil-absorption area. This will clog the system, thereby necessitating an expensive and inconvenient replacement of the entire system.
The following are the best maintenance tips for your septic system:
- Spread automatic washer use evenly throughout the week instead of putting too much load on one day.
- Make a permanent record of where the key parts of your system are located for future maintenance.
- Have your septic tank pumped out regularly.
- Maintain a clear record of pump-out and maintenance services.
- Use water-conserving devices wherever possible. Low-flush toilets and shower heads are commonly available.
- Get the trapped lint on your automatic washer cleaned periodically.
- Get the pumps, siphons, and other moving parts of your system checked.
- Prevent the growth of trees with large roots near the disposal field.
- Maintain a healthy grass cover over the disposal field to use some of the water and to prevent erosion.
- Make sure that water from slopes and roof drains don't flow into the disposal field.
- Check your interceptor drain regularly to ensure that it is flowing freely.
- Compost your kitchen waste.
- For oversize septic tanks, having a garbage grinder is recommended.
- The tanks of oversize septic systems need to be cleaned frequently.
- Avoid overloading the system with high volumes of water.
- Avoid connecting basement sump pumps to the on-site system.
- Avoid connecting backwash from water treatment devices directly to the on-site system without professional advice.
- Avoid entry of large amounts of chemicals, fats, solvents, and plastics into your septic system.
- Avoid the use of septic tank additives. They have the potential to damage your disposal system.
- Even if you use additives, you'll still have to pump out solids from your system to keep it unclogged.
- Never enter a septic tank without proper ventilation and preparation.
- For septic tanks in confined spaces, a second person has to be present above the pit and other mandatory precautions also need to be followed.
- Don't allow vehicles or heavy equipment to drive over or park on the disposal field as this may impact the soil and damage the piping.
- Avoid planting anything over the disposal field except for grass.
- Don't cover your septic tank or field with asphalt, concrete, or other impermeable material.
- Don't add a separate pipe to carry wash waters to a side ditch or woods as these "grey waters" also contain disease-carrying germs.
Do not flush the following items into your septic system:
- Coffee grounds
- Disposable diapers
- Sanitary napkins
- Cigarette butts
- Fats, grease, and oils
- Photographic chemicals
- Pills and unused medication
- Dental floss
- Kitty litter
- Paper towels
- Other chemical wastes
- Waste oils
Regular inspection and maintenance can detect and prevent many problems at the onset.
How do I know if my septic system is unhealthy?
There are a few ways to tell if your system has become unhealthy. If you notice any of these symptoms, call AA American Septic immediately.
- Sewage is backing up into your toilets, sinks, or showers.
- The household drains are draining slowly, especially after a spell of rain.
- You notice a sewage smell in the leach field or the nearby area.
- You see sewage in ditches or the soil is very soggy (even when it hasn’t rained) in your leach field.
- Water tests in nearby streams or ponds test positive for biological contamination or organic chemical contamination.
- If your system has an alarm and it goes off or starts flashing, this may be an indication of a system malfunction.
- There is sewage seeping up from the septic tank or vault lid.
How often should I get my tank pumped?
Frequency of pumping depends on the capacity of the tank and the number of people in the house. If your house has a standard 1,250-gallon tank and you have 3 to 4 people, the tank must be pumped every 2 to 3 years. Garbage disposal may accelerate the formation of sludge. This calls for more frequent cleaning.
What does pumping a septic tank entail?
Pumping involves vacuuming the wastewater sludge and cleaning the tank chambers. Large tank trucks equipped with high-capacity vacuum pumps are needed to carry out this process. The waste is then transported to a designated municipal wastewater treatment facility for processing.
How long do septic systems last?
With proper septic tank maintenance and repairs, your system should last anywhere between 20 years and 30 years.
I’m thinking of buying a house. What should I know about its septic system?
For complete safety, get an AA American Septic professional or a licensed plumber inspect the tank and drain the field before you close a property deal.
With state-of-the-art equipment and advanced knowledge at our disposal, we offer you the best septic solutions. We're affordably priced.